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Your Child may be an Online Sex Abuse Victim, too!

by Anne Ronquillo

Recently updated on July 17, 2023 03:25 pm

Editor’s Note: The following story contains details which may offend sensibilities. This is not to glorify or justify the actions of the protagonists.This is an attempt to call the attention of the government and the society on this social media phenomenon.

“ONE in 10 children accepts friend request (on Facebook) from anyone, whether known to them (or not). In doing so, they become vulnerable to  cybersex syndicates.”

That is according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in its report released in July 2021. The study stated that more than one in five children reported ending up on dangerous websites without knowing how they got there. Only one in 100 children blocks strangers.

“Being directed through pop-ups on websites, or within games or other apps, may also result in children being inadvertently exposed to adult content, whether sexual, gambling or other age-inappropriate material,” said the UNICEF. 

Another study conducted more recently by the UNICEF, Interpol and ECPAT International revealed that 20 percent of internet-using children aged 12-17 experienced sexual abuse and exploitation in 2021. 


Targeting Facebook 

“When scaled to the size of the population, this represents an estimated two million children who were subjected to any of these harms in just one year,” the study said. 

The same study also identified Facebook or Facebook Messenger as the most common platforms where the alleged online abuses occurred. Other platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat were also cited, but to a lesser degree. 

It is in this light that the Cybercrime Investigation  and Coordinating Center (CICC) raised the alarm about the potential risks of the internet for children.  

The CICC is actively campaigning against the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC), being one of the attached agencies of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) which joined the “all-out war” campaign of the government against this problem.

Telcos’ help

In order to curb the proliferation of OSAEC, the DICT is closely coordinating with telecommunications companies.

The telcos, diyan po ang gateway na pumapasok doon. But the DICT itself has its capabilities to do this,” DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said in a Malacañang briefing in August.

Aside from blocking the website address that spreads child sexual abuse content, the DICT also coordinates with social media companies like Facebook which, according to CICC, ranks as the “most common platform where children are targeted for OSAEC.”

Beyond blocking

But for the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking  (DOJ-IACAT), the obligation of social media sites like Facebook goes beyond the blocking of child sexual abuse and exploitation content on their platform. 

They have other obligations as well, aside from blocking. These include preserving data that can be used for investigation or prosecution later on, as well supplying user information to law enforcement agencies that can be  used for leads or even for investigation,” said DOJ Undersecretary Nicholas Ty.

The National Bureau of Investigation-Cybercrime Division (NBI-CCD) is closely coordinating with Facebook, and they would put up an “exclusive portal” for the purposes of  reporting and collaboration

It is a joint investigation. They will provide us digital evidence upon our request and then they will immediately take down the profile page of this producer of OSAEC material,” said NBI-CCD Chief Christopher Paz

‘Twitter not doing enough’

But while Facebook is lauded by the Philippine authorities for actively engaging in the fight against online child sexual abuse and exploitation by installing technological solutions and changing its policies, DOJ said Twitter is lagging behind. 

Ty said they are looking at having a dialogue with Twitter regarding its efforts to comply with the law against OSAEC in the Philippines. 

“Compared to Facebook, Twitter falls short a lot. I have yet to speak with anyone from Twitter and I hope to do so one of these days. But I do hope to hear from them what measures they have undertaken to comply with the new law. But in terms of filtering, I’m not aware of more proactive measures of their part to comply with the OSAEC law,” he said.



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